(First of two stories)
The bellicose events surfacing in Iran must make matters difficult for Iranians living in the United States.
It is likely that they are being unfairly discriminated against.
The truth is that those that discriminate miss out what could be a meaningful exchange or friendship that influences their lives forever.
This is to honor an Iranian stranger that beautifully touched mine.
On December 2003, my mother was bedridden at a Houston hospital undergoing a gruesome course of chemotherapy. She had an advanced case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Her hospitalization was sudden and unexpected.
My sister who lives in California had just left taking care of her. My other sister, the one that lives in New York City, would be taking over for her within a few days.
Living in Puerto Rico, it was very difficult for me travel to Houston for the few days my mother would be without a companion. A 4-year old and a legal career as a solo practitioner had made it practically impossible for me to leave the island at that time.
While speaking with my mother over the phone one of those nights she was alone, she softly whispered how cold it was.
“Socks” — she started. “My feet are so cold, and I have no clean socks to warm them up.”
My sister had forgotten to leave her enough clean ones until my other sister arrived.
1,975 thousand miles away, I felt powerless. It was next to her bed that I had to be. Next to the woman who always made sure my feet never felt cold.
Bear in mind this was the time when the only nationwide online shopping available was the virtual store that made its claim to fame with an “inventory of 1,000,000 books”. Very few businesses had web pages. Facebook had not been born.
Frantically, I looked up in the (limited) internet for stores in Houston where I could buy socks from afar.
My plan was to pay with a credit card over the phone and get a delivery service to pick the socks up and bring them to my mother.
Little did I know what I was in for.
After numerous attempts at calling well-known national stores whose employees callously replied, “We don’t do that here”, my last alternative was to call Wolford, a high-end hosiery boutique at the Galleria Mall.
It was late in the afternoon. A soft-spoken lady with what I recognized to be a Middle-Eastern accent answered the call. Her name was Lila. Lila Moosh.* She was originally from Iran.
After I explained to her why I was calling, she did not hesitate to take on the mission to bring over the socks to my mother. Taking a huge risk by accepting an unorthodox method of payment by fax, she chose for her the warmest, softest pairs of socks in the store.
“I will personally take them to her” she said. I offered to pay for her time, and she graciously declined. I even dare say she was offended at my offer.
Instead of giving the socks to a nurse in the counter, Lila personally delivered them to my mother. She had to put on a gown, mask and gloves required to enter the room.
My mother thought a lost stranger had mistakenly entered her room. Lila explained to her why she was there. While she put on the socks on my mother’s chilling feet, she made small talk with her.
After warming her feet, Lila stayed for a while to keep her company. Despite her thick accent and my mother’s limited fluency in English, they were able to converse until my mom fell asleep.
When I talked to my mother the next day, she was comfortable in her new toasty socks. She told me how the sweet lady had brought her the prettiest and warmest socks she had ever seen.
After talking to my mother, I called Lila to thank her. She graciously told me it had been her pleasure meeting “such a delightful lady”.
She said how grateful she was to me for giving her the opportunity to meet her.
Lila was a class act.
I am certain that these days Persians like Lila get mistreated with considerable verbal aggressions.
It is undeniable that the terrorist and warring threats that besiege our Nation have to be tackled. That, however, is the government’s job. We should not let it affect our lives.
We grow up knowing prejudices are bad.
I grew up in a rather homogeneous neighborhood and school in the suburbs of Puerto Rico. Other than the moral aspect of the undesirability of prejudices, I had never had the opportunity to realize that they militated against common sense.
My experience with Lila is the quintessential example of the most important lesson I took from college:
Prejudices only hurt the people that hold them. They remain oblivious to what could become a wonderful experience.
People with open minds that hold no trace of xenophobia get to discover the talent, intelligence, ideas, love, compassion and/or collaboration that foreign nationals can bring to anyone’s life.
Had I dismissed Lila because of her nationality, my suffering mother would have been unnecessarily freezing her feet off for days until my sister arrived to keep her company.
Lila was a gentle soul who unselfishly crossed my mother’s path to give her feet and her soul the warmth they desperately needed at the time. She crossed mine to reaffirm my belief that noble people can come from any part of the world.
Although her altruistic deed was not comonplace, Lila was no different than most of the loving people I grew up with in Puerto Rico. Facing the same circumstances, any of my close friends and relatives would have done the same.
Eight months later, my mother passed.
Lila no longer works at that store. I recently called to honor and thank her again for her selfless act of kindness.
For obvious reasons, the employee could not give me her whereabouts.
I will forever be grateful to that Persian stranger for her cultured act of kindness that one day alleviated my mother’s pain.
- Spelling is phonetical